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2007 Season Previews
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last Year: 4-12)
Veteran Additions:
QB Jeff Garcia, FB B.J. Askew, TE Jerramy Stevens, OT Luke Petitgout, G Matt Lehr, DE Kevin Carter, DE Patrick Chukwurah, DT Ryan Sims, OLB Cato June.
Draft Picks:
RB Kenneth Darby, OT Chris Denman, G/OT Aaron Sears, DE Gaines Adams, DE Greg Peterson, OLB Quincy Black, CB Marcus Hamilton, S Sabby Piscitelli.
Major Subtractions:
QB Tim Rattay, FB Jerald Sowell, WR Edell Shepherd, TE Doug Jolley, OT Kenyatta Walker, OT Cornell Green, G Sean Mahan (PIT), DE Dewayne White (DET), DT Lance Legree, OLB Wesley Mallard, MLB Shelton Quarles, S Blue Adams (CIN).

Offense This Year: Jeff Garcia has only been a Buccaneer for a few months, but he's already won the praise of Jon Gruden. "Right now, Jeff Garcia is clearly the leader in the clubhouse," Gruden said. "We have a veteran quarterback now that we think can upgrade us in an area we need to improve." It's no surprise Gruden is already giddy at the prospect of Garcia starting under center; he's had to endure the erratic and inconsistent play of Brad Johnson, Rob Johnson, Brian Griese and Chris Simms during his tenure in Tampa Bay. I think "upgrade" is definitely an understatement.

Garcia proved he had something left in the tank when he took over for an injured Donovan McNabb last season. Garcia commanded the Eagles to a 5-1 record as a starter, throwing for 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions. More importantly, he was a better leader on the field and in the locker room than McNabb ever was. Garcia's two seasons in Cleveland and Detroit have proven to be flukes - no one wins with those organizations - and he will definitely prosper in Gruden's version of the West Coast offense.

However, I'm willing to bet Garcia was hoping that his new team would have traded up for Calvin Johnson in April's draft. Instead of Johnson, Garcia will be throwing to soon-to-be 36-year-old Joey Galloway and Michael Clayton, who has disappointed since his rookie campaign in 2004. I should note that Galloway registered 1,057 receiving yards and seven touchdowns despite the fact that Bruce Gradkowski started the entire season. The Buccaneers better hope that his skills don't decline this year. A resurgence by Clayton (33 catches, 356 yards, one TD) wouldn't hurt either.

Clayton's not the only one who needs to regain his rookie form. After compiling 1,178 yards and six scores in 2005, Cadillac Williams struggled, accumulating 798 yards and only one touchdown. Part of the reason for his struggles could be attributed to the erratic play at the quarterback position; defenses were stacking the line of scrimmage, and Cadillac consequently gained only 3.5 yards per carry. The other reason his numbers dropped was the offensive line; Tampa Bay has maintained a weak front for years. The right side has been taken care of, as guard Davin Joseph and tackle Jeremy Trueblood are entering their second campaign. Both played well as rookies last year. That said, the left side is a major concern. The Buccaneers signed tackle Luke Petitgout away from the Giants. Petitgout is talented, but he's coming off a major injury. Meanwhile, guard Dan Buenning and center John Wade don't have much to offer.

Defense This Year: Does one player make that much of a difference? Tampa Bay's defense, dominant for years, struggled in 2006, as it surrendered 22 points per game and registered only 25 sacks. Only 25 sacks? Yeah, that's not a misprint. It's hard to imagine the Buccaneers with anything less than 40.

The root of the problem was Simeon Rice; he missed half the season and only notched two sacks when he was in the lineup. Rice is 33, so is he over the hill? Tampa Bay better hope not, but at the least the team got some insurance just in case he is. Prior to the draft, the Buccaneers signed defensive ends Kevin Carter and Patrick Chukwurah for depth. When the end of April rolled around, they selected Gaines Adams No. 4 overall. Adams was a relentless pass-rusher at Clemson, and should fit in well with coordinator Monte Kiffin's scheme.

More sacks should give the secondary an extra boost; the defensive-back corps collected only 11 interceptions in 2006, a drop from 17 the season before. Even so, I fear that age is a factor here as well. Brian Kelly, 31, and Ronde Barber, 32, are both past their prime. Reserve corners Alan Zemaitis and Tanard Jackson are waiting in the wings, but I don't think either is ready to start. At safety, Jermaine Phillips struggled, prompting the Bucs to spend their second-round pick on Sabby Piscitelli. Fourth-year Will Allen is solid at free safety.

Defensive tackle was also an issue for Tampa Bay. The organization traded Booger McFarland to the Indianapolis Colts, leaving a gaping hole in the middle of their line, where Chris Hovan and Ellis Wyms resided last year. The Buccaneers struck a deal for Ryan Sims a few months ago, but I'm not exactly sure how much he's going to help. Sims has been a complete bust with Kansas City and has accomplished nothing in his career.

At least we know the linebackers will be better. Tampa Bay's prized acquisition this offseason, with the exception of Garcia, was outside linebacker Cato June, a Pro Bowl-caliber player who has had a few outstanding years with the Colts. He'll be playing next to Derrick Brooks, a future Hall-of-Famer, who led the team in tackles last season, and Barrett Ruud, who could emerge as one of the conference's top linebackers in 2007. The Buccaneers drafted Quincy Black in the third round for depth. Black should be able to take over for Brooks, 34, when he calls it quits.

Schedule and Intangibles: Unlike every other team in the NFC South, the Buccaneers actually win at home; they're 56-32 at the New Sombrero since 1996. The team was 3-5 last year, which was pretty good considering its overall record was just 4-12. ... In their existence, the Buccaneers have never returned a kickoff for a touchdown. That's really hard to believe. ... Matt Bryant hit an amazing 62-yard field goal last year, but was only 5-of-9 between 40 and 49 yards. That must improve. ... Can Tampa Bay finally beat Carolina? The Panthers are 7-1 against the Bucs the previous four seasons. ... Four of Tampa's first five games are against Seattle, New Orleans, Carolina and Indianapolis. After that, however, the Buccaneers get Tennessee, Detroit, Arizona, Washington, Houston and Atlanta twice.

Additional Reading: Endless Banter coming soon.

Positional Rankings (0-4 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

Divisional Rival History:
Atlanta Falcons: Vick was just 2-5 against Tampa Bay's defense prior to last season. I say we throw out any game Bruce Gradkowski started.
Carolina Panthers: Domination. Carolina has claimed seven of the past eight meetings.
New Orleans Saints: Another road-dominated series in the NFC South. The visitor has won seven of the past 10 meetings.

Fantasy Football:
Jeff Garcia: Jeff Garcia doesn't put up monstrous numbers, but he wins, which matters most. But not in fantasy football.
Projected Stats: 3,200 passing yards. 21 passing TDs. 180 rushing yards. 1 rushing TD.
Projected Fantasy Points: 310.

Cadillac Williams: Cadillac Williams won't be as bad as he was in 2006, but he might not be as solid as he was in 2005. It's worth the risk, but he could rebound.
Projected Stats: 1,100 rushing yards. 250 receiving yards. 6 total TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 171.

Alex Smith: After a promising rookie campaign, Alex Smith struggled a bit in 2006, catching only 35 passes for 250 yards. Don't forget that Bruce Gradkowski was at quarterback.
Projected Stats: 500 receiving yards. 5 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 80.

Joey Galloway: Joey Galloway recorded his second-consecutive 1,000-yard season with the Buccaneers. However, he turns 36 in November, so there's a chance you might see his stats start to decline a bit.
Projected Stats: 1,150 receiving yards. 9 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 169.

Michael Clayton: What happened to this guy? Michael Clayton had 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns in 2004. Since then, only 728 yards and one score. Take him late if he's still available because you never know.
Projected Stats: 600 receiving yards. 3 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 78.

Maurice Stovall: Could be a decent wide out for the Buccaneers down the road. Maurice Stovall didn't make a single catch till December. Had seven receptions for 102 yards that month.
Projected Stats: 450 receiving yards. 3 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 63.

Matt Bryant: Although Matt Bryant is known for the 62-yarder he hit against Philadelphia, he was just 5-of-9 from 40-49 yards last season. Bryant was, however, 10-of-11 from that distance in 2005.
Projected Stats: 22-27 FG (1-2 50+). 33 XP.
Projected Fantasy Points: 109.

Tampa Bay Defense: If Simeon Rice really has lost it, and you take Tampa Bay's defense, you could be in trouble. The unit is definitely worth starting against Detroit, Washington, Houston and Atlanta (if Joey Harrington is under center).
Projected Fantasy Ranking: Top 15 Defense.

Analysis: Tampa Bay will be back in the playoff hunt. How far the Buccaneers go will depend on how well their defense plays. Remember, Simeon Rice, Greg Spires, Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly are all past the age of 31.

Projection: 9-7 (3rd in the NFC South)

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